The strive for food security continues in Nigeria with a call on the government to take drastic steps at making enough food available by providing an enabling environment for farmers to produce more, as a number of suggestions were given by experienced people in the agriculture value chain. These points were made known by the experts, as part of efforts while appraising this year’s World Food Day, saying the problem of Nigeria was not lack of policy per se, but poor implementation as well as the perceived government’s insincerity to providing basic infrastructure to aid farming. According to Prof. Abdulrazaq Adebowale of the Department of Food Science and Technology, College of Food Science and Human Ecology (COLFHEC), Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Ogun State, the nation was not secure in terms of food security, adding that to attain mass food production, Nigeria would need to quickly move from rain-fed agriculture and embrace irrigation.
“As a nation, we need to improve our processing and storage facilities to reduce food losses. We don’t have storage facilities for perishable agricultural products. The government needs more effort to improve infrastructure, especially power to help in the storage of farm produce”, he said. On his part, Dr. Ayedun Isaiah Segun, a Senior Lecturer at the Protestant University of West Africa, Port Novo, Benin Republic, said the government was not doing much in terms of agriculture. He added that Nigeria should face agriculture squarely to prevent hunger in the land. According to him, “The level of corruption is so high in the country. There should be follow up whenever money is being disbursed for any project and Nigerians should be dedicated and shun corruption to make Nigeria work”.
Why the government should be up and doing regarding improving security to enable people have more access to food and curb food insecurity in the country has been stressed by another don. This time around, the Director, Community-Based Farming Scheme (COBFAS) at FUNAAB, Prof. Sunday Adigbo, disclosed that Nigerians require huge investment in farming to make it attractive, saying “If we really want to make farming interesting, we must be ready to invest”. Prof. Adigbo, who lauded authorities of his institution for promoting food security, disclosed that when he took charge at COBFAS, his mission was to transform the scheme into a centre of excellence through full mechanisation. “The Vice-Chancellor has been supporting us with the provision of farming implements, planters, harvesters, and fertiliser spreader and the sky is the limit at COBFAS,” he maintained.
Also, the Acting Director, Directorate of University Farms (DUFARMS) at FUNAAB, Mr. Olusola Marayesa, called on the government to provide farm inputs and machineries at subsidised rates for farmers to make it possible for the country to achieve food security, urging the government to create an enabling environment and encourage youth participation in agriculture for the nation to move forward and experience development. “If we are determined, we will achieve food security. Interest, consistency, land, labour and capital must be considered when you want to go into agriculture,” he added. In related development, the Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Kolawole Salako, has also tasked the government to provide adequate security to address food insecurity in the country.
The Professor pointed out that insecurity was the major thing scaring people away from farming, adding that the government must provide an enabling environment for farmers to have minimum comfort to produce food. The Vice-Chancellor noted that the issue of kidnapping was an emerging threat, saying the implication was that people would be scared and there would be low production of food. Prof. Salako revealed that FUNAAB could not produce food en masse, as being solicited by some people, but had continued to focus on its core mandate of teaching, research and extension services. He said the government and all stakeholders in the agricultural sector needed to sit down, dialogue and decide on what to do with the country, stressing that food production could be better achieved if universities engage in commercial farming, saying “Civil service mentality is there and rather, private sector mentality is what we need to produce at a commercial level”.
Speaking on the state of education as it related to farming, the Vice-Chancellor agreed that the country’s education was not at its best, saying Nigerians should not look at education alone, but the country as a whole. He further called on the government, parents, teachers and religious bodies to take care of the problems collectively, saying there is no sector in the country that does not have its problems, adding that “Fixing the education sector is the responsibility of everybody”. In the final analysis, what we need to focus on are the implementation of agricultural policies, availability of basic infrastructure, movement from rain-fed agriculture and embrace irrigation, improvement in processing and storage facilities to reduce food losses, regular power supply, better funding and investment, enhanced security, availability of more farm inputs and machineries at subsidised rates for farmers, youth participation in agriculture, and finally, the engagement of specialised universities in commercial farming, among other suggestions.